Many years ago I moved to Lausanne, Switzerland to work on a one year research project at an international business school. Apartments were in short supply but I managed to find a tiny, overpriced studio at the top of the town, high above the Lake of Geneva. The studio was furnished with a Murphy bed, a shabby table and chair and the world’s most uncomfortable sofa. But a picture window on the back wall framed a magnificent view of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Alps. The studio might have been pricey but the view was priceless.
My office was down by the lake. Early every morning I headed down the steep, cobblestone streets past the train station and on to the wide, tree lined avenues of Ouchy. (That’s pronounced ooh-she not ouch-ee.) Within a day or two, I discovered a small farmers’ market. Once a week a handful of farmers set up shop on a narrow street above the station. Makeshift tables were loaded high with beautiful, just-picked fruits and vegetables.
I was tempted but if I shopped in the market I would need to speak French. French was a dim high school memory, barely spoken in almost ten years. Was I up for the challenge?
I plunged in. Behind one table a nice farmer lady smiled and asked if she could help me. I smiled back, gathered up a tomato or two, a head of lettuce, a zucchini and looked around for beans. I searched the back of my brain for the French word for beans and hit on légume. In English a legume is a dried bean. It stood to reason that légume could be the French word for bean. I frantically composed my request, took a deep breath and asked in fractured French, “Do you have légumes?” The nice lady replied politely and in perfect French. Yes, of course she had légumes but what kind of légumes did I want? Again I wracked my brain and remembered vert was green. “Légumes verts,” I replied.
That’s when she took pity on me and switched to English. Légumes was the French word for vegetables. Since she had lots of green vegetables, could I be more specific? I blushed and tried again, this time in English. She was delighted to sell me haricots verts.
Throughout the year I visited her table many times to buy vegetables and practice speaking French. I frequently fumbled and she just as frequently bailed me out. I soon learned she was a California native. She’d fallen in love with a Swiss farmer and was living happily ever after in a small village outside of Lausanne. When she wasn’t giving mini French lessons to befuddled expatriates, she helped him grow and sell vegetables.
The one year project in Lausanne ended but somehow or other I forgot to come home. After staying in Switzerland for almost two decades, I finally found my way back to Pleasant Lake. I still love a trip to the Farmers’ Market. Even if I don’t need a translator, our local markets have a unique charm found only in New England towns.
Enjoy a trip to the farmers’ market and celebrate summer’s bounty around the table with family and friends,
Salade de Crevettes Nicoise (Shrimp Salad Niçoise)
This colorful salade composée (composed salad) will make a beautiful centerpiece on your summer table and tastes wonderful. Enjoy!
1 pound new potatoes, cut in bite size pieces
Vinaigrette Niçoise (recipe follows)
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 pound assorted cherry and grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 pounds cooked large shrimp*
1/2 cup dry-pack, oil-cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons capers, drained
Fresh, chopped parsley
Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes well and transfer to a bowl. Combine the potatoes with just enough vinaigrette to coat and toss to combine. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, bring salted water to a rapid boil in a large skillet. Add the beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times to cook the beans evenly. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and put the beans in a bowl with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss. Store in the refrigerator.
Put the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and pepper in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss. Store in the refrigerator.
Remove the vegetables and shrimp from the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before serving.
To serve: arrange the beans around the edges of a large deep platter or on individual plates. Spoon the potatoes into the center. Artfully sprinkle the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and pepper over the beans and potatoes. Top with shrimp, sprinkle with chopped olives, capers and parsley and serve.
* My Mediterranean Shrimp are perfect in this salad. Make ahead and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can buy cooked shrimp and toss them in a little vinaigrette.
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3-4 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Dash hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
Put the vinegar, mustard, garlic, onion, thyme and hot sauce in a blender or small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine and chop the garlic and onion. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until incorporated.
Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.
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One Year Ago – Insalata Caprese
Two Year Ago – Mojito Melons
Three Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Four Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have a favorite Farmers’ Market? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.
© Susan W. Nye, 2012
Farmers’ Market Photograph by Natalie Maynor. All other photographs by Susan Nye.